During a special meeting held Friday morning on Zoom, the District 97 school board decided not to take up the administration’s recommendation to terminate popular Beye fifth-grade teacher Patrick McAndrew; instead, voting 6-1 to suspend McAndrew without pay.
Citing personnel privacy concerns, district officials have not disclosed the alleged infraction for which McAndrew is being disciplined. Board member Katherine Murray-Liebl voted against the motion to suspend McAndrew.
According to district documents obtained by Wednesday Journal, the administration recommended McAndrew be terminated for failing to notify Beye Principal Jennifer Schemidt of his plans to travel to Nepal for a 10-day family visit in January and for fraudulently submitting two paid sick leave requests.
The district also alleged that McAndrew was being insubordinate and untruthful during the administration’s investigation into the matter, according to the documents.
McAndrew has been on paid administrative leave since early February, sources close to the matter say. According to multiple parents interviewed, McAndrew’s fifth-grade class has seen at least three substitute teachers since his absence, with the district providing little communication to families about McAndrew’s absence, parents and students said.
McAndrew’s absence and possible termination prompted an outpouring of support from parents, students, teachers and community members. There were at least two demonstrations held this month in support of McAndrew and hundreds of people emailed the D97 school board to express their support for the Golden Apple Award-winning teacher.
Dan Burke, who served as a D97 school board member from 2003 to 2007, said McAndrew taught one of his children. McAndrew also helped facilitate the elementary theater program at Beye.
“He created a love of theater in kids that carried on with them when they went to Julian,” said Burke, who wrote a letter to Wednesday Journal in support of McAndrew. “I also knew him as a board member. He was just a notable teacher for how strongly he was revered by parents and students.”
At a demonstration outside of D97 headquarters on March 12, Ariel Schick, whose daughter is in McAndrew’s class, stood among roughly four dozen protestors to voice her concerns about how the Golden Apple Award-winning teacher’s absence has affected her child.
“This has affected my daughter’s mental wellbeing,” Schick said. “During remote learning he’s super-theatrical and cares about each child. And even in that environment, he’s been super successful. So they were really excited for him to be in-person and he’s just been missing and they’ve been told nothing.
“This has created so much anxiety among so many of the kids. My daughter has stomach aches before she goes to school now and her math scores have plummeted and they’ve had three substitutes this trimester.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly mentioned that the school board voted unanimously against terminating McAndrew. This article has since been updated. Wednesday Journal regrets the error.